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Alberta Calls for Stricter Environmental Rules on Oil Sands

Bloomberg 

 

By Mark Chediak

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — The Alberta government called for stricter environmental rules as the province’s oil sands are developed.

The province’s 20-year plan recommends that companies use less water in the extraction of bitumen, the tar-like raw material processed to make crude. It also seeks faster restoration of mined land and controls on tailing ponds and greenhouse gases.

“When it comes to Alberta’s oil sands, we believe that Canada can be a leader in finding innovative ways to ensure both economic growth and greater environmental protection,” Lloyd Snelgrove, president of the province’s treasury board, said in a statement today.

Located 750 kilometers (466 miles) north of Calgary, the oil sands may contain 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil, second only to Saudi Arabia’s 259 billion barrels, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the world’s second-largest oil company, Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc. and EnCana Corp. said last year they would reduce plans to mine the oil sands because of falling crude prices. Petro-Canada said in November it was delaying plans for an oil-sands mining project in Alberta because of rising costs and declining prices.

“It allows us to get on with development of what is a pretty important resource,” Don Thompson, president of the Oil Sands Developers Group, an industry organization, said. “We look forward to working with the government.”

An environmental group said the proposal does not go far enough.

The recommendations will do little to slow the pace of development or improve environmental controls, said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development, a non-profit Alberta-based group that researches environmental policy.

“It’s a plan to do more planning,” Dyer, the group’s oil- sands director, said. “It lacks specifics, timelines and accountability. There’s nothing binding.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco[email protected].

Last Updated: February 12, 2009 19:01 EST

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